Balance growth impacts with the needs of the environment to ensure sustainability and resiliency.
North Charleston has an abundance of natural resources throughout the City. As the City grows, the demand for housing and employment centers challenge the preservation of these resources. There are opportunities for the City to further promote the conservation of larger tracts in partnership with various organizations while establishing or maintaining a balance between the natural and built environments within neighborhoods – a critical quality of life component. Green spaces provide a space for socialization and passive recreation within each neighborhood, particularly those where smaller lots mean more households with smaller yards. Brownfields can be re-used to generate additional open spaces in and around neighborhoods, in addition to revitalizing neighborhood commercial areas. Most importantly, City decisions on future development patterns and proposals can greatly influence having an appropriate balance between the natural and built environment throughout the city in the future.
Green spaces are sometimes overlooked as an important piece of community infrastructure. Not only is green space an asset to communities within the City, but it can also play an integral part in stormwater management and mitigating increased demands on aging drainage systems. As the City grows, there is less previous surface to absorb stormwater. Without functioning storm drainage systems to accommodate increased impervious surfaces, coupled with increased storm activity, the City is at a greater risk of flooding.
Natural areas are the most cost-efficient stormwater management system to mitigate the impacts of development and assist with the absorption of rainfall and reduce rainwater runoff within neighborhoods. Continual updates to the City’s stormwater plans to stay abreast of best management practices (BMPs) for stormwater management can be integrated into future developments to ensure low-impact designs and patterns that are ecologically friendly. Floodable green spaces can serve dual purposes for recreation and stormwater retention. Likewise, these provide an opportunity for residents to connect with nature and to offset potential impacts from an ever-changing climate.
A system of designated green spaces and buffer areas, along with undevelopable natural areas can function as “green infrastructure” that improves the City’s resiliency to storms and other natural events, while mitigating potential flooding and protecting water quality. Creation of a green infrastructure plan will identify those areas to be conserved as development proposals are reviewed.
As the City becomes more urbanized, mixed-use and higher density development in designated locations and/or contexts can assist in mitigating the impacts on adjacent natural resources. Overlay standards and/or use of performance or form-based codes will provide the needed flexibility to accommodate higher densities, while ensuring compatibility and cohesiveness of design and placement that mitigate impacts such that new developments contribute to the City’s sustainability. Many of the City’s current land use and development regulations could benefit from updates to more performance and/or form-based codes to assist in balancing growth demands and encouraging environmental resiliency.
Residents, property owners, and businesses look to a jurisdiction for adequate public facilities and supportive infrastructure. However, the provision of these comes at a price. Newer subdivisions are required to include supporting infrastructure as they are developed, but many established neighborhoods lack sidewalks and/or adequate drainage systems. In addition to these obvious infrastructure deficiencies, there are aged water, sewer and utility lines. Planning and coordination are critical elements of ensuring the cost-efficient provision of adequate facilities and infrastructure. Each component of infrastructure is the responsibility of a unique agency or department, each with independent strategic plans. Increased coordination and collaboration to construct facilities and/or make necessary upgrades to infrastructure concurrently can mitigate costs and minimize the inconvenience to residents and businesses.
A tool used to frame coordination and collaboration on the provision of facilities and infrastructure improvements is a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). A CIP sets forth projects required to implement plans which have been prepared and adopted, with an annual listing of priority project for consideration by governmental bodies responsible for implementation. The City can greatly benefit from the development of a CIP that is used as a blueprint for prioritization and budgeting of future public facilities and infrastructure.